Do not do the “do nots”. When it comes to practical wisdom, Proverbs is the book to read. If you think James is zealous in extolling works, check out these passages!
While what we read here may be the first bit of concrete words on practical wisdom in Proverbs, the lead up has been important. Knowing the value of wisdom and of seeking the Lord from chapters one to three, we can approach this with an attitude of discernment.
“27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you.”
Verses 27-30 deal with personal dealings with other people. Why is it so hard to give good to those who deserve it? The basic answer is that we desire ownership of that “good”, being time, money or words, and don’t want to give it up for someone else. That’s called greed and thievery.
The same goes with dealing with a needy neighbour. Why ask him to come back if you have the solution in your hands?
“29 Do not devise evil against your neighbour, for he dwells by you for safety’s sake. 30 Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm.”
Proverbs is shouting, “Stop it, stop it!” when it comes to malicious behaviour. Live in peace, forget your spats, and do what is right.
Don’t you be the starter of contention. There are enough people who will do that for you!
“31 Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; 32 for the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the upright.”
It’s so easy for us to envy those in power who have risen up by stepping all over people. Why do we do it? It’s because they have gained power and we haven’t. We forget that God loves us anyway, and so we try to gain positions the same vicious way the world does, trying to achieve high standing with people.
God finds such behaviour in us an abomination. Do not go down that road. Stick with living uprightly, and there will be secret counsel just for you. Hooray!
“33 The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. 34 Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble. 35 The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.”
These last few verses are typical of Proverbs, where there is a distinct contrast between the wicked and the follower of God. The home is blessed or cursed. God gives grace or scorn. The inheritance is glory or shame.
The purpose in this is to show that choices made in life affect how God views us. Seek justice, humility, and wisdom, and God will bless you abundantly. Be wicked, scornful, and a fool, and God will judge you.
One thing to make clear: no one is good in God’s eyes. No one seeks after God enough for Him to consider it a search. It is only through God’s saving grace that we can achieve any of these qualities of justice, humility, and wisdom.
Who gets God’s saving grace? He chooses.
Feel like He is calling you? Answer now. Amen
Pondering? Check out Romans 5:6-11 and onwards for more about God’s gift to sinners like us.